I was stumped with what to call these cupcakes. Depression Era chocolate cupcakes? Vegan chocolate cupcakes? Allergy-friendly chocolate cupcakes? It doesn’t really matter because whatever they are called, they are moist and decadent and delicious. So much so, that you would not know that they are vegan!
The inspiration for my Depression Era chocolate cupcakes
As you might have read, I was looking for a new recipe for allergy-friendly chocolate cupcakes after my favourite packet mix was discontinued. If possible, I also wanted the recipe to be gluten-free, if possible, and simple of course!
I had tried a few vegan recipes, but many included things like coconut oil or almond milk, which was not good for someone with nut allergies. I kept looking.
Last week, while looking for something totally different, I came across a recipe for Depression Era chocolate cake.
The Great Depression was a global economic depression starting in 1929 and lasting until the late 1930s. Following stock market crashes, the Depression continued in many countries until the start of World War II. Construction halted, crop prices fell by about 60%, areas known for primary industries, such as mining and logging, were devastated and more than half of the banks failed.
Millions of people throughout the world lost their jobs and had little or no money for food. A drop in business meant many groceries were unable to stay fully stocked, which lead to a scarcity of food, rationing and food stamps.
In many cases, fresh milk, butter and eggs were especially difficult to come by. There were also limited choices when it came to food. With budgets extremely tight, recipes of the time stretched the available ingredients to make them go as far as possible and were adapted to work without scarce and expensive ingredients.
A Depression Era chocolate cake – without eggs, butter or milk because of food shortages – was well on the way to being vegan chocolate cupcakes or allergy-friendly chocolate cupcakes. It just needed a few tweaks.
Tweaking the recipe to become Depression Era chocolate cupcakes
I already had a rich chocolate frosting recipe that was vegan and allergy-friendly (providing you use gluten-free icing sugar). Still, the cupcakes needed some work.
First, the recipe had to be adapted to cupcakes, as it was originally for a cake. This mostly involved halving the ingredient volumes and cooking time.
Still, simply halving everything would not work. I wanted to ensure that these Depression Era chocolate cupcakes had the glorious moist but fluffy texture of our decadent and moist chocolate cupcakes, which I used with both Mars Bars and Oreos, so I used them as a guide for the ingredients and amounts. Still, without eggs or buttermilk, this would be a challenge.
I also wanted the recipe to be as simple as possible. The fewer steps, the better. I had no butter to melt or milk to warm, but I didn’t want to add a number of additional steps and make things more complicated. I preferred to simplify.
This recipe is now simple, with three steps:
- Sift and mix the dry ingredients.
- Add the wet ingredients and mix well.
- Spoon into patty pans and bake.
As an added bonus (unless you have to use gluten-free flour), the recipe is still incredibly cheap to make, which is why it was invented during the Depression!
Making allergy-friendly chocolate cupcakes
Finally, I wanted to tweak the recipe to ensure that it did not contain any common food allergens (there are 14). To me, this meant that my allergy-friendly chocolate cupcakes had to be free of:
- Nuts, including coconut or almond. The coconut oil in the recipe would have to change.
- Dairy – the recipe already was without milk, buttermilk or butter these products were difficult to get during the Depression.
- Eggs – there was already no eggs in the recipe, so this was okay
- Soy, including no soy milk, and
(I was pretty sure that I did not have to worry about other common food allergies like fish, shellfish, mustard or celery in this recipe).
I wanted to make these cupcakes gluten-free, but could not easily find gluten-free flour (flour has been difficult to get recently). I hope I will be able to try the recipe with gluten-free flour soon and will update this post if I discover that changes need to be made if you are using gluten-free flour.
I only recently learnt about lupin allergies, but from what I understand there are flours that are both gluten-free and lupin-free.
The few adjustments and I think the recipe is good to go!
They don’t taste like vegan chocolate cupcakes
I found that some vegan cupcake recipes yielded cupcakes that had strange aftertastes or consistencies that were not what I wanted.
Fortunately, there are no strange aftertastes with these Depression Era chocolate cupcakes. They are rich and moist and fluffy and delicious. They rose beautifully and evenly in the oven. If you did not know it, you would not guess that these Depression Era chocolate cupcakes are also vegan chocolate cupcakes.
Make these delicious Depression Era chocolate cupcakes today
Whether you call them vegan chocolate cupcakes, allergy-friendly chocolate cupcakes or Depression Era chocolate cupcakes, one thing is true: they are delicious. But don’t just take my word for it – try them yourself.
This is a great recipe to have in your collection for children’s birthday parties or other gatherings where you are not sure of what allergies or diets might be involved. They are cheap to make and very easy and quick with the simplified instructions. They are delicious and bound to be a crowd-pleaser, even with picky crowds.
Of course, they are chocolatey and delicious… so you could just make some for yourself.
When are you going to try them?
Depression Era chocolate cupcakes
- wooden spoon
For the cakes
- 1 1/2 cups flour plain or gluten-free flour or a combination
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon aluminium-free baking soda
- 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup strong coffee
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
For the frosting
- 180 g dairy-free spread dairy-free margarine
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 250 g icing sugar
- Splash of non-dairy milk of your choice optional
For the cakes
- Preheat oven to 190°c (375°F) and line a muffin pan with patty pans.
- Sift flour, salt, cocoa powder and baking soda into a large bowl. Add the sugar and stir with a whisk to combine.
- Add oil, vanilla, and coffee and vinegar. Stir well to combine and make sure there are no lumps in the batter. The batter will foam up a bit as the baking soda reacts with the acid in the vinegar and the coffee.
- Pour batter into patty pans until they are about two-thirds full and bake at 190°c degrees for about 13 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when you insert it into a cake.
- Allow the cupcakes to cool before frosting.
For the frosting
- Cream the spread until it is light and fluffy (or at least fluffy). Add the cocoa and icing sugar and mix slowly, then fast for about 2 minutes until well combined, all lumps are gone and you have the right consistency. If it is too thick, add a splash of non-dairy milk. If it is too runny, add some icing sugar.
- Pipe or spread onto the cupcakes and serve.